How Families Can Explore the Immigrant Experience With Audiobooks

How do you teach your children to develop empathy for others? Our family found that part of the answer lies in audiobooks.

My daughter is one to ask a million questions. She is three, and precocious, and we find ourselves having deep discussions about how the human body works, Pete Seeger’s life, why Fritz breaks Clara’s Nutcracker, and more recently, why we help others who are here as refugees and asylum seekers.

Here in Portland, Maine, we have a growing community of immigrants and refugees who have come from countries where their lives are at risk, their homes are destroyed, and they and their children have experienced things no person should. How do I explain that to my three-year-old without making her frightened?

The answer, in our case, came in part through reading. There are many beautiful and moving picture and chapter books for learning about the experiences of immigrants and refugees with content that is approachable for children and helps facilitate discussions at their level. These titles are excellent, as well, for helping children who have come to America as immigrants and refugees see a mirror of their own lived experiences.

Through a wonderful initiative developed in Maine called I’m Your Neighbor, we found a beautiful collection of books to give children windows into the lives of others and to help them see their own experiences reflected back to them. Dive in and see what amazing resources you can find!

We’ve selected six audiobooks to help your children, or the children in your life, understand and reflect on what it means to be new to a country and to leave everything you knew behind. There are audiobooks appropriate for kids as young as three to ages ten and older.

I'm New Here

I’M NEW HERE
by Anne Sibley O’Brien, read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon De Ocampo, Ruth Livier, Anne Sibley O’Brien
Live Oak Media, Ages 4-6
Young, vibrant narrators voice heartfelt concerns as students from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia are each welcomed into new classrooms in a new country. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

We Are America

WE ARE AMERICAA Tribute from the Heart
by Walter Dean Myers, read by Macleod Andrews, Olivia DuFord, Dion Graham, Lizann Mitchell, Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers, Johanna Parker, Adriana Sananes, Kaipo Schwab, et al.
Live Oak Media, Ages 6+
A chorus of voices welcomes listeners to this meditation on what it is to be American. Poems and quotes are delivered by a talented cast of narrators that reflect the diversity of the United States. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Save Me a Seat

SAVE ME A SEAT
by Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan, read by Josh Hurley, Vikas Adam
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 8+
Using two narrators is the perfect way to deliver this story, told as the alternating first-person recollections of two fifth-grade boys. Vikas Adam is the voice of Ravi, a recent immigrant from India, and Josh Hurley is the voice of Joe, a boy with auditory processing disorder (APD).  Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

The Red Pencil

THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, read by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+
Pinkney performs her novel in free verse, which features Amira, a girl listeners meet when she’s living a happy life with her family in the South Darfur region of Sudan. Everything changes when her family is forced to flee. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

A Crack in the Sea

A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman, read by Bahni Turpin, H.M. Bouwman [Afterword]
Listening Library, Ages 10+
Bouwman weaves a fascinating story of brothers and sisters, history and fantasy in this incredible tale. Narrator Bahni Turpin is extraordinary in bringing this fantasy world and its characters to life. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Brooklyn Bridge

BROOKLYN BRIDGE
by Karen Hesse, read by Fred Berman
Macmillan Audio, Ages 10+
Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse’s deeply moving story concerns Russian immigrants in 1903 Brooklyn. Fred Berman beautifully captures 14-year-old Joseph’s electric excitement to participate in the life of the city around him. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Have you listened to a family audiobook on this topic? Please share about it below!

Don’t miss our interviews with Ramon de Ocampo, one of the narrators of I’M NEW HERE, and a two-fer interview with Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam narrators of SAVE ME A SEAT— both part of our ongoing Behind the Mic series!

Find more great audiobooks here: Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with age ranges.

 

Emily Connelly
A former wildlife biologist, avid reader, and parent to two book-loving kids, Emily is excited to be jumping into the world of literature, and happy to be working with AudioFile’s wonderful team of reviewers. She works behind the scenes to help keep AudioFile's blog running and is currently working towards a MLIS.

Behind the Mic: Hoodoo

Hoodoo is the magic. Hoodoo is the hero.

AudioFile went Behind the Mic to talk with narrator Ron Butler about the ‘magic’ of his performance of HOODOO by Ronald L. Smith. Magic indeed, you’ll come under Ron’s spell to seek out this audiobook.

“Hoodoo, the 12-year-old boy has so much heart—a huge heart—the heart of a poet.”—Narrator Ron Butler

HoodooHOODOO
by Ronald L. Smith, read by Ron Butler
Dreamscape
AudioFile Earphones Award
2016 Coretta Scott King Award

We loved the way the author weaves together the 1930’s small-town Alabama, Hoodoo’s magical family and the spooky Southern Gothic atmosphere. Narrator Ron Butler pulls in listeners immersing them in this great family listen. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

HOODOO is featured in our 20 Exceptional Audiobooks to Kickstart Your Family Listening, and is part of AudioFile’s comprehensive Kids & Teens Listening lists.

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20 Exceptional Audiobooks to Kick-start Your Family Listening

Start here with audiobook listening for the whole family. AudioFile’s recommendations give you so many stories to share.

Audiobooks and kids make a great match. Intimate and exciting performances from dynamic voices can help bring the stories to life in new ways. We’ve made some great matches for you, pairing up newer titles along with well-loved classics that all share a similar theme or idea.

There are misfit girls, journeys to self-discovery, battles against injustice, and opportunities to learn about cultures and experiences that may be different from our own. There’s sure to be something that will appeal to every young listener in your life—and will be fun for you to listen to right along with them!

Fantastic Worlds
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ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
by Lewis Carroll, read by Jim Dale
Listening Library

If you like Wonderland, you might like . . .


HATCHED
by Bruce Coville, read by Matthew Frow, Jeremy Gumbs, and a Full Cast

Listening Library, Ages 8+

BAKER’S MAGIC
by Diane Zahler, read by Tavia Gilbert, Michael Crouch, and a Full Cast
Live Oak Media, Ages 8+

THE HIDDEN ORACLE
by Rick Riordan, read by Robbie Daymond
Listening Library, Ages 10+

Other Times & Cultures
When the Sea Turned to Silver

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER
by Grace Lin, read by Kim Mai Guest,
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+

If you like learning about cultures from around the world, you might like . . .

ONE HALF FROM THE EAST
by Nadia Hashimi, read by Ariana Delawari

Harper Audio, Ages 8+

THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Shane W. Evans, read by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Hachette Audio, Ages 8+

A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman, read by Bahni Turpin

Listening Library, Ages 8+

The Battle Against Injustice
The Giver

THE GIVER
by Lois Lowry, read by Ron Rifkin,
Listening Library, Ages 12+

If you liked uncovering the world of THE GIVER, you might like . . .

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 12+

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

by Kelly Barnhill, read by Christina Moore
Recorded Books, Ages 10+

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE
by Adam Gidwitz, read by Adam Gidwitz, Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, Jonathan Cowley , Kimberly Farr, Ann Marie Lee, Bruce Mann, John H. Mayer, Benjamin Bagby, Arthur Morey
Listening Library, Ages 10+

Discovering the Magic Within
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale
Listening Library, Ages 8+

If you wish you could learn at Hogwarts, you might like one of these . . .

THE GOLDEN COMPASS
by Philip Pullman, read by a Full Cast

Listening Library, Ages 12+

GRAYLING’S SONG
by Karen Cushman, read by Katherine Kellgren
Recorded Books, Ages 10+

HOODOO
by Ronald L. Smith, read by Ron Butler
Dreamscape, Ages 10+
Keep your eye out for our Behind the Mic visit with narrator Ron Butler!

Family & Community
Because of Winn-Dixie

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE
by Kate DiCamillo, read by Cherry Jones
Listening Library, Ages 8+

If you shared Opal’s family with yours, you might like . . .

THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE
by Jacqueline Kelly, read by Natalie Ross,
Brilliance Audio, Ages 12+

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
by Matt de la Peña, read by Lizan Mitchell,
Recorded Books, Ages 4-6

BROWN GIRL DREAMING
by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Jacqueline Woodson,
Listening Library, Ages 10+

What audiobooks have you listened to with your kids that you would recommend for someone who loves Harry Potter? What audiobook have they loved that helped teach them more about valuing family and community? Share your favorites in the comments!

Find more great audiobooks here, Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with with age ranges.

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Behind the Mic: Grayling’s Song

Newbery medalist Karen Cushman brings us another magical story with Katherine Kellgren “at her best”

We know that narrator Katherine Kellgren can weave spells with her versatile voice and her prodigious narration talents. As AudioFile goes Behind the Mic, we learn about another of Katherine’s gifts when she recorded Karen Cushman’s GRAYLING’S SONG.

“Karen Cushman loves to have music in her books . . . We agreed that I would write all the melodies for Grayling’s songs.”—Narrator Katherine Kellgren

Grayling's Song
GRAYLING’S SONG

by Karen Cushman, read by Katherine Kellgren
Recorded Books
Earphones Award Winner

AudioFile Editors knew the combination of Karen Cushman and Katherine Kellgren would again create terrific listening. Celebrated Cushman titles ALCHEMY AND MEGGIE SWANWILL SPARROW’S ROAD and now GRAYLING’S SONG make a trifecta of song, history, magic, and memorable characters. Listen to a sound clip of Katherine and read our full review here!

Katherine Kellgren
Photo: Jo Anna Perrin

Find more recent audiobooks by Katherine!

Best Audiobooks 2016AudioFile
2016 Best Audiobooks
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Behind the Mic: Save Me a Seat

Two fifth-grade boys from worlds apart find a common bond in this dual narration

Narrators Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam go Behind the Mic for AudioFile and give us a dual perspective on SAVE ME A SEAT as two boys start school at Einstein Elementary.

“These kids are like a lot of kids in grade school who deal with bullies, insecurities, and trying to fit in.”— Josh Hurley

Save Me a Seat
SAVE ME A SEAT

by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan, read by Vikas Adam & Josh Hurley
Scholasitc Audio
Earphones Award Winner

Two fifth-grade boys, Ravi and Joe, come from very different places. Ravi is newly immigrated from India, and Joe is dealing with learning challenges. Using two narrators is the perfect way to deliver this story, and Vikas Adam and Josh Hurley bring every moment to listeners with clear connection and involvement. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review here.

Vikas Adam and Josh Hurley

Read our interview with Josh and Vikas!

Best Audiobooks 2016AudioFile
2016 Best Audiobooks
Award Winner

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!